What the Heck Have I Been Up To?

I have never been accused of bombarding people’s mailboxes with too many newsletters or blog posts. In this day and age when we are supposed to be digitally connected 24/7, I am a social media party pooper. It isn’t that I don’t love seeing what others do on Facebook – in fact,  the connection it brings with people around the world is what I love most about it. But otherwise, I prefer tinkering in my kitchen, teaching, engaging with a live audience, or otherwise doing the real stuff my work involves, rather than reporting to the world about what I’m up to every ten minutes.  On the home front, my kids have berated me over the years for not snapping […]

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Sukiyaki on National Television – Watch Vegan Mashup!

How do you like my new “do”? Okay, so it’s a wig. But filming Season 1 of Vegan Mashup put me in such a happy mood that I literally burst into song and dance. And then I got hungry, so I made some Japanese comfort food, sukiyaki. Of course, all of this was done on set. Sukiyaki is a savory concoction invented after the Japanese figured it was okay to eat cows (for centuries, it was considered savage to eat 4-legged creatures, almost as uncivilized as wearing shoes in your house). Traditionally, it features thinly sliced beef simmered in a sweet soy broth with tofu, vegetables, and that miracle zero-calorie noodle, shirataki. Luckily, it’s not really about the beef, and a […]

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Duxelles for Everything – even Truffled Seitan

Oh, dear. I fear that I rushed to post the Truffled Seitan recipe, and in doing so, left in a mention of the “mushroom juice from the duxelles” that I had meant to delete. Naturally, several people have already asked me about this. What are duxelles? They are among one of the most wonderful things in the world. And we have the French to credit for this. Finely minced mushrooms are squeezed dry, then sauteed with shallots and herbs, and maybe even a splash of brandy or sherry, to yield an intense mushroom flavor that will serve as a filling for all manner of things from crepes, lasagna, tarts, potstickers, or how about Truffled Seitan? The extracted juices also pack […]

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Of Figs and Tempeh and Fancy Culinary Terms Like “Sear”

In some pools, you swim up to the bar. In my pool, you swim up to the fig tree.  The Musing: Seared ahi or some other sea creature – a delicacy on so many menus. Do you know that according to scientists there will be no fish left in the sea in 50 years if we keep eating them at this rate? True — and truly frightening. Hard to enjoy that tuna after reading this, huh? Luckily, there’s a bounty of other things — of plant origin — that can be seared to delicious heights. The Recipe: When we moved to our house about 6 years ago, I was delighted to find two very prolific fig trees. Every fall, I am […]

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The Other Christmas Dessert

It’s funny how societies will adopt the tradition of another and give it a unique spin.  Case in point:  Japan has no tradition of Christmas, but it’s probably the best season for selling cakes.  What is Christmas to the Japanese?  Christmas Cake.  You say what?  You know, Christmas Cake — sort of like a strawberry shortcake with “Merry Christmas” written on it.   Well, don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of it, because I hadn’t either when I moved back there in 1980.  When I was a little girl in Japan, Christmas seemed to be something magical and ethereal experienced only in a far-away land where everyone had blonde hair and blue eyes.  By the time I moved back […]

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One Quiet Weekend Before Christmas

Where there’s no television, computer, or wireless connection, there is peace.  And cookies. We began the weekend with some slight trepidation.  Rorie, one of our neighbors near our mountain cabin,emailed us earlier this week to let us know that it had been vandalized.  Our cabin is in a little town in the Sierra called Washington, California, that still thinks it’s the 1850’s.  George Hearst, the notorious father of William Randolph Hearst, had a claim there back in the day when Washington was a swaggering gold rush town boasting a population of 3000, with multiple brothels, saloons and hotels.  Today, Washington’s downtown is basically one colorful block with a general store, the original Washington Hotel that once lodged the likes of […]

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What’s the Pudding?

Last year’s Christmas Pudding (Miniature version) set aflame Now that Thanksgiving is over, it’s time to start planning what to eat for Christmas.  Yes, the cookies will be baked, but what I get excited about is pudding.  Good old Christmas pudding.  Not just lore from A Christmas Carol, Christmas Pudding is a rich and indescribably delicious dessert (“pudding” simply means “dessert”  in the British vernacular).  The indescribable part refers to trying to explain it to folks who have never had it — most people envision the dreaded fruitcake of yore when they hear that it’s made from bread crumbs, raisins and other dried fruit. And then you mention the suet.  Yes, lovely suet — rendered beef fat.  Mmm…yum.  “No, thanks,” is the […]

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Will the Real UnTurkey Please Stand Up?

For years, when I had Now and Zen Bistro, and then later when The UnTurkeys were flying out of our facility to stores nationwide,  I had no time to plan my own Thanksgiving.  During the restaurant days, we’d get started on our multi-course UnT-day feast weeks in advance.  UnTurkey with all of the fixings – it didn’t get better.  One year, I even had a customer seated on a five-gallon bucket in the kitchen – he had driven up to San Francisco from Santa Barbara without reservations and didn’t care where he sat as long as he had UnTurkey, so he munched happily away in the bustle and  madness of the kitchen. Now that I have the luxury of planning […]

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Not At All Fishy Tacos

My husband came home, and as husbands are wont to do, announced what he’d like for dinner.  “Fish tacos.  Do you think you can come up with a vegetarian version?”  Having been a vegetarian for most of my life, I suffer from a disadvantage when asked to recreate certain dishes – specifically, not ever having eaten it in my life.  Fish tacos falls under that category, since they came into vogue long after my conversion, although the few recipes I perused enticed me with the freshness of the ingredients (other than the fish part, of course).  I had recently developed a vegan version of scallops (which I have eaten in my life, many years ago) made from yuba, or the […]

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Confessions of a Chef

So…November started out on a good note.  By the 11th, I had posted four blogs for the month, a record since starting in August.  I even promised to post Thanksgiving recipes over the next couple of weeks.  But then something happened…I got busy in the kitchen cooking and not writing.  But I did do another kind of writing – actually writing down some of the recipes I had made.  You see, I am one of those cooks with the terrible habit of creating things in the kitchen and not keeping a record of it.  The recipe is fresh in my mind while I am making it, and I am confident that I will remember and be able to recreate it […]

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